Saturday, May 31, 2003
The scholar-blogger report
THE SCHOLAR-BLOGGER REPORT: The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on scholar-bloggers. Yours truly is quoted, but Daniel Urmann easily has the best line in whole piece.
There's also a good list of academic blogs at the end.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy has some additional thoughts, including a good-natured jab at my colleague Jacob Levy.
Two additional points. First, compared to a some of the reporters I've dealt with, I was pleased to see that my words weren't distorted in the Chronicle piece. Thank you, David Glenn.
Second, I think the piece underemphasizes the scholarly reason for blogging. Picking apart the scholarship of a Michael Bellesiles or a John Lott is a rare occurrence. More important is the way blogs can engage an audience outside the small world of students and colleagues. At their best, scholar blogs can function as what Hayek called "second-order intellectuals," applying abstruse theories to real-world problems. They can open a window on the inner workings of ivory tower, debunking stereotypes of academics as detached from the real world.
At their worst, no one reads them and you get denied tenure for engaging in such base pursuits.
Bynamist on fire
Ouch. She even has a link to empirical evidence supporting the long-winded charge.
Friday, May 30, 2003
Regarding income inequality
OK, my take on the income inequality situation. [What the hell took you so long?--ed. Sorry, the teaching and research are more time-consuming at the moment.] This will probably be a letdown after talking about it for so long. I have three basic points:
1) Measuring static inequality is in some ways unfair, since the question is whether individuals and families experience upward mobility over time. This Urban Institute report has some valuable background information on the question of mobility vis-a-vis inequality. The money graf:
Furthermore, this lengthier Urban Institute report contains an interesting tidbit from a 1992 Treasury Department study on mobility during the 1980s, which was a decade in which by static measures the rich got richer and the poor got poorer:
Does this vitiate Kevin's argument? No, not really. If you read the report, it turns out that income mobility in the U.S. is not appreciably different than it is in, say, Scandinavia. Furthermore, mobility has not changed as income inequality has increased -- if anything, mobility has shrunk for those without a college education. Still, an implicit implication of those who fret about rising inequality is that such a rise will lead to greater class stratification -- and that's not happening.
2) So, if we stipulate that income inequality is rising, is this squeezing out the middle class and the poor? The answer is no. If you care only about income, the poorest percentage of the population made great strides during the late nineties, completely erasing any losses from the previous twenty years. Business Week pointed this out in an April 2002 story. Some key grafs:
So, the rich may be getting richer, but this is not at the expense of the poor. It's also worth pointing out that even though income inequality is rising, but as Mickey Kaus loves to point out, poverty has fallen over the past 20 years -- though not in a linear fashion. The decline in poverty was more pronounced among African-Americans than the rest of the population, by the way.
3) OK, so rising inequality is not causing an absolute drop in poor families. Still as Kevin argues in an e-mail, increasing inequality means that, "people who successfully move into the middle class are moving into a class that's not as good as it was for their parents, relatively speaking."
Actually, I'd argue the reverse -- more people are enjoying a middle class that's, on the whole, better off that prior generations. Consider two basic staples of a "middle class" lifestyle -- a college education and home ownership. This table shows that between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of all Americans aged 18-24 enrolled in a college or university increased by 40%. A greater fraction of Americans are receiving the college education so necessary for achieving a higher income. Furthermore, this fraction is considerably higher than any other OECD nation except for Canada (click here for some basic cross-national comparisons on education).
What about home ownership? This web site points out that home ownership rates have been steadily rising over the past decade. In 2001, 67.8% of American households owned their home -- the highest rate of home ownership since the Census Bureau began reporting these statistics in 1965.
But what about other quality-of-life issues, like crime, health, safety, and the environment? Gregg Easterbrook wrote a great New Republic piece in January 1999 demonstrating that on every social indicator imaginable, things were improving across the board for ordinary Americans over the past twenty years.
Calpundit's original point was that the distribution of benefits from economic growth over the past 20 years was skewed too much towards the rich. However, the fact remains that the rest of the population has received substantial benefits during the same period.
Furthermore, Americans don't begrudge the rich getting richer. Part of this has to do with the aforementioned mobility -- part of it is probably due to a greater discomfort in the U.S. to income redistribution than in other OECD countries. David Brooks makes this point repatedly (click here and here). His main point:
Brooks, by the way, is hardly the first person to make this point about Americans.
Economic growth over the past 20 years was a Pareto-optimizing move. It's not clear to me that the income from the richest 5% could have been redirected towards the poorest 20% without some deadweight loss in income. And given that the lower and middle classes have substantially benefited from the 1980-2000 economic boom, and their lack of resentment towards those who are perceived to have benefited disproportionately, it seems pointless to argue ex post that there should have been a greater focus on redistribution.
UPDATE: A comment on Arnold Kling's blog points out -- correctly -- the criticisms of the Treasury study that I cite above. I still cited it because the study does address the question of class stratification -- i.e., whether, over time, individuals and households do see natural rises in income due to increased work experience.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
TUNE IN TOMORROW: I really
TUNE IN TOMORROW: I really meant to get to the question of rising income inequality in the United States today, but I'm just swamped. In the meantime, more contributions on the debate from Stephen Karlson, John Quiggin, Yankee Blog, and Kevin Drum redux.
The merits of American diplomacy
Critics of U.S. foreign policy tend to focus on the statements/actions of policy principals (i.e., cabinet secretaries) and their immediate deputies. However, a signal virtue of U.S. diplomacy is the ingrained habit of trusting subordinates to innovate and adapt to local circumstances, and then copying those innovations when they work. This is true even in the most centralized and hierarchical foreign policy organization -- the U.S. military.
Two examples. The first should make the guys at OxBlog happy. According to the Chicago Tribune, in Afghanistan the U.S. military has modified its position on how to deal with incidents that lead to civilian causalties:
Both of these examples are small steps. They'll probably have a mixed record of success. However, actions like these by local foreign policy operators are a key way in which the wellspring of successful American foreign policy is constantly replenished.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
A roiling debate on inequality
Kevin Drum is arguing that the poor are not getting their fair share of the increasing economic pie:
David Adesnik responds to Drum's post by pointing out the following:
Kieran Healy responds to Adesnik. His key point:
I'll be posting my thoughts on this debate tomorrow. In the meantime, read all of their posts.
DOES MEXICO CITY MAKE SENSE?:
DOES MEXICO CITY MAKE SENSE?: My Chicago School companion Jacob Levy argues that the Bush administration's Mexico City of prohibiting "U.S. government funding of any organization that performs abortions or advocates for the liberalization of abortion laws in other countries" is incoherent.
He's got a good argument. Go check it out.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
BLOGGERS ON THE WARPATH: Josh
BLOGGERS ON THE WARPATH: Josh Marshall is all over Tom DeLay's role in the Texas redistricting case; Mickey Kaus is all over the New York Times' latest embarrassment involving Rick Bragg and the reliance by Times reporters on stringers.
I don't have much to add to Marshall's reporting, except this link to a Chicago Tribune piece on a similar anomalous redistricting taking place on Colorado.
As for the Times imbroglio, Glenn Reynolds, Charles Murtaugh, and Jonah Goldberg all observe that one fallout from the Bragg affair is that prominent columnists are starting to acknowledge the work of their minions -- I mean, research assistants.
If this trend takes hold, there's going to be a veeeerrrrryyyy interesting revolution in today's op-ed pages. It is common knowledge that op-eds and essays attributed to prominent people are usually not written by them, but rather by their minions/flunkies/research assistants (go to the chapter on intellectual life in David Brooks' inestimable BoBos in Paradise for the best description of this part of the knowledge economy). It will be interesting to see if more of these kinds of essays are now explicitly rather than implicitly co-authored.
If so, good for the broad spectrum of twentysomethings with Georgetown BAs and Masters from SAIS who finally earn some recognition. However, Richard Posner makes a provocative point -- that plagiarism in its myriad forms is a venial and not a mortal sin:
I'm still not convinced that Posner is correct -- but I am convinced that the blogosphere will strongly resist Posner's assertion. We traffic in the very ideas that Posner discusses. To us, any theft of our ideas is a theft of our intellectual progeny. To the general public, however, it matters not a whit.
Monday, May 26, 2003
Postwar pressure on Israel, redux
Great article in Ha'aretz describing the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among Israel's ultra-conservatives after the Israeli cabinet's decision to accept the "steps" of the road map -- which means accepting the concept of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories. The key grafs:
This really should not have been a surprise -- it's a replay of Gulf War I. After the 1991 war, the Bush administration recognized the need to move forward on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and forced a Likud government into accepting the Madrid conference, which helped paved the way to Oslo.
One disturbing difference is the relative power of the settlers in the occupied territories -- they are simply a larger constituency now than before. Here's more from Ha'aretz:
Friday, May 23, 2003
CUE "THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA" MUSIC:
AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: Last month I
AFGHANISTAN UPDATE: Last month I was very pessimistic about the situation in Afghanistan.
This month, Steve Verdon argues that U.S. efforts to create a semblance of an infrastructure in Afghanistan are being overlooked by the media. He's got a point. This Baltimore Sun story, for example, has the headline, "IN KANDAHAR, SLOW PROGRESS," while containing the following graf:
If you read the story, it's clear that most of the city's problems date back decades. Efforts to create a national police force, rebuild roads, help malnourished children, and voter registration are proceeding apace. India and Afghanistan just signed a preferential trading agreement.
However, the key political problem remains the lack of central authority and persistence of low-level violence. On this front, one can point to limited progress. This week, for example, local governors pledged to transfer more tax and customs revenue to the central government of Hamid Karzai. And the Washington Post reports that Karzai has relieved Aburrashid Dostum, one of the most opportunistic warlords in Afghanistan, from his regional post.
However, several grains of salt are in order. As the Economist notes:
And the Post story notes the following on Dostum:
There are also reports that Al Qaeda is reconstituting itself in Afghanistan.
To sum up: progress slow, security still a problem.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
IDIOT OF THE WEEK: That
Now, let's go to the Journal News story -- which has much more detail and explains the absence of corroboration -- and get Crosbie's side of the story:
Sigh. It could be worse, I guess -- he could be working for the Office of Homeland Security.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
These Democrats get it
What I find particularly interesting here is the transformation of Donna Brazile. In past campaigns, Brazile was a partisan's partisan, making some extremely inflammatory comments towards Colin Powell and George Bush Sr. Now, she's on the board of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and bashing Dukakis in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Drezner's Assignment to Beltway bloggers: Explain Brazile's turnaround -- is it a change of heart or a change of tactics?
Robert Tagorda thinks it's a combination of the two. He's got a ton of links on Brazile as well.
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997-2003:
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997-2003: I'm in mourning today, as my favorite television series ever went off the air last night.
I could try to explain why I loved the show so much, but I suspect it would come off as flat. I can link like crazy, however.
CNN provides a wealth of back story for the uninitiated. Connie Ogle has an excellent essay of why Buffy was so good. Jonathan Last has a great overview of his top-ten favorite episodes. Joyce Millman has an exhaustive archive of odes to Buffy in Salon. The best ones are here and here. And don't miss Slayage: The Online Journal of Buffy Studies, including this exhaustive academic bibliography of scholarship devoted to the Buffyverse. [Isn't that all a bit pretentious?--ed. Go read this Stephanie Zacharek article on the phenomenon from a non-academic perspective. And then read this Rita Kempley piece on why Buffy is so appealing to theologians]
The Parents Television Council labeled Buffy the least family-friendly show of 2001-2 -- and I must admit, their description of the show is pretty dead-on in terms of its potentially objectionable material. However, it's telling that Christianity Today praised the show's use of such material:
When a television show earns cultural praise from Christianity Today,The American Prospect, National Review Online (though they hated the finale), FHM Magazine, Reason (according to Virginia Postrel) and the New York Times editorial page, you know you're talking about something that cannot be reduced to a whiff of transient pop culture -- you're talking about a pathbreaking work of art.
I'll close with two quotes. The first is from an Onion interview with the show's creator, Joss Whedon:
The second is from Zacharek again, capturing how I'm feeling today:
Mission accomplished, Joss.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
AL QAEDA'S CURRENT STRENGTH(?): The
AL QAEDA'S CURRENT STRENGTH(?): The attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, combined with the Bush administration's deliberations about raising the terror warning, prompts media reports that Al Qaeda is back in strength.
However, some reflection is in order. The AP reports that the Morocco attack suffered from some poor execution:
This fact, combined with evidence that the Saudi attack was hastily arranged, suggests that Al Qaeda is more dependent than ever on its local affiliates, who are of varying degrees of quality in terms of their competence. The BBC has more:
Christopher Hitchens uses punchier language:
This ties into my previous post.
It is possible that Al Qaeda is marshalling its remaining strength to attack a target in a Western country, and is therefore subcontracting its other operations to locals. I'm not saying they can be entirely written off. The point is, Al Qaeda may be adapting to new circumstances, but those new circumstances have weakened it more than the past week's media coverage suggests.
UPDATE: Brian Ulrich suggests a similar phenomenon occurring among Al Qaeda's affiliates in Central Asia. He also links to Juan Cole, who has some interesting thoughts on the spate of recent bombings.
Monday, May 19, 2003
THE ARAB MEDIA WAKES UP:
THE ARAB MEDIA WAKES UP: Salon has a fascinating interview with Khaled Al-Maeena, editor in chief of Arab News, about the independent Arab media's reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein and the spate of Al Qaeda bombings in the region. The money quote:
Read the whole thing.
The Bush cycle
This administration has a peculiar pathology. It focuses like a laser beam on a key priority for several months, ignoring any criticism from outsiders. It then achieves its priority, earning plaudits for gutsiness and discipline. Immediately afterwards, however, drift sets in, unexpected complications arise, events beyond the Bush team's control create new obstacles to policy implementation, and things appear to fall apart.
The policy drift has occurred four times in this administration -- after the passage of the 2001 tax cut, after the fall of the Taliban, after the 2002 mid-year election, and, alas, after the victory in Iraq.
What's going wrong? There's the wave of Al Qaeda attacks, which the FBI now warns could hit American soil. Click here and here for the latest problems with postwar Iraq. And here's Jacob Levy on the stupidity of a temporary tax cut on dividends. And, as in other down cycles, key staffers are announcing their departure.
A troubling hypothesis -- is it possible that the message discipline so valued by the Bushies also leads to the suppression of policy adaptability?
[WARNING: The argument presented in this post is purely inductive].
UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Jay Fitzgerald suggest an alternative hypothesis with regard to Iraq -- Bush just doesn't care about the people of Iraq. That would certainly be consistent my TNR piece about Bush using the neocons rather than vice versa. The problem is, I don't buy Kevin's assertion that "[Bush] thinks that committing lots of money and lots of troops over a long period is an electoral loser, so he's not willing to fight for it." What viable Democratic challenger is going to criticize the President on these grounds? John Edwards just blasted Bush from the other direction today.
Sunday, May 18, 2003
Blogging, anonymity, and the paper of record
The New York Times has an amusing article on personal (as opposed to policy) blogs. My favorite part:
Good thing she doesn't talk to newspapers with national circulation, or else someone using Google could locate it in about twenty seconds.
UPDATE: Today, I received an e-mail request from Ms. Allen to delete this entire post. I found this a trifle amusing -- the next sentence of the Times story quoted above runs
At the same time, I also felt some sympathy for an 18-year old who sounds a bit freaked out by the Blogosphere's focused attention on her quotidian activities. Despite the Times reporter's claim -- and her own -- it's pretty clear she doesn't want to be "found out."
So a compromise: yesterday's version of this post contained an active link to Ms. Allen's blog. Given the quotation above, I suspect the source of Ms. Allen's discomfort was that link, so I've deleted it.
Three concluding lessons from this:
1) Don't ever think it's possible to hide material on the Web. The "doctrine of security by obscurity" never works.
2) Being the center of attention carries negative as well as positive externalities.
3) This episode highlights another distinction between bloggers and journalists. A journalist wouldn't -- and shouldn't -- ever be able to make such a retraction.
Fortunately, I'm not a journalist.
Friday, May 16, 2003
TOM DELAY DOING THE HURT
TOM DELAY DOING THE HURT DANCE: This has not been the best of weeks for the House Majority Leader.
First, Josh Marshall, smelling blood in the water, is all over DeLay's role in locating Texan Democratic state legislators -- click here for some background. Andrew Sullivan keeps it simple: "TOM DELAY IS A MANIAC."
Meanwhile, from today's Chicago Tribune:
Thursday, May 15, 2003
CONFESSION: I FIRST THOUGHT THIS
CONFESSION: I FIRST THOUGHT THIS WAS SPANISH: For those readers dying to see a Portuguese translation of my latest New Republic Online essay, click here.
Democrats for national security
Liberals like Michael Totten, Dr. Joshua Micah Marshall, and Heather Hurlburt have acknowledged that Democrats face a credibility gap on foreign policy issues vis-a-vis the Republicans. Today, Josh Marshall links to Democrats for National Security, organized by one Timothy Bergreen, an ex-State staffer during the Clinton years. Here's a great quote from Bergreen from a Jonathan Rauch story that explains why such an organization is necessary:
I wish Bergreen luck. So should all of you. [Ahem, aren't you a Republican?--ed. I'm also a firm believer in the two-party system, and I get really uncomfortable when one party seems incapable of competently discussing matters of grand strategy.]
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: Kieran
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: Kieran Healy's post on Krispy Kremes is a must read for anyone who recognizes that doughnuts are the most addictive substance on the planet -- next to chocolate-frosted Pop-Tarts®.
And Bill Amend of Foxtrot comes up with a devastating comeback for geeks everywhere.
RACE AND THE NEW YORK
RACE AND THE NEW YORK TIMES: Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are writing and linking like crazy on the role that race played in the Jayson Blair affair. And it now appears that even Howell Raines admits race may have played an unconscious role in Blair's swift ascension through the Times ranks:
Two other must-read essays on this topic. The first is Eric Boehlert's discussion in Salon -- it's worth seeing the ads to get to it. The piece does a nice job of pointing out the combustible mix of elements -- Blair's ability to schmooze, Raines' management style, and yes, race -- that led to the scandal. Here's the money quote:
Read the whole thing -- and, if you're wondering where Boehlert is coming from, read his previous Raines piece from last December.
A closing note. Those readers suspecting me of schadenfreude are mistaken. Well, OK, I experienced about five minutes of it reading the story on Sunday. And yes, I like to critique the Times coverage of foreign affairs from time to time.
However, I also link to it a fair amount. Compared to any other American paper -- with the partial exception of the Christian Science Monitor -- their international coverage simply covers more ground than anyone else. The Times gets more criticism than any other paper because it's more widely read than any other paper.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
CONSPIRACY SECRETS REVEALED!!: The origins
Click here for an online version of Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in World Politics."
Here's a link to the Washington Post story quoted in the essay.
As for the Straussians, the Boston Globe had a story this past Sunday on Strauss' influence on world politics. Here's Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article -- and here's an interview with Hersh that touches on Strauss as well. Le Monde also ran a piece on the Straussians that pre-dated both the NYT and Hersh -- here's a translated version. Josh Cherniss has a series of excellent posts -- here, here, here, here and here -- that provides considerable background on Straussian thought and its relative incompatibility with neoconservatism.
Finally, for those conspiracy-mongers reading this a looking for some way to dismiss my claims, let me provide some ammunition. I teach in the very same political science department where Leo Strauss taught and Paul Wolfowitz studied forty years ago. In 1994, I briefly worked with Abe Shulsky, one of the Straussians highlighted in the New Yorker article. Last night, I attended a talk that my overlord -- I mean, respected commentator William Kristol -- gave for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
Oh, and I'm Jewish.
UPDATE: Justin Raimondo provides a traditional conservative rebuttal. Man, that guy can link.
THE LIMITS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES:
THE LIMITS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES: My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's on the latest round of foreign policy conspiracy theories. Go check it out.
Elsewhere in Iraq
While the administration scrambles to improve order and security in Baghdad, it's worth noting that post-war reconstruction is progressing in other places -- like Mosul. This Chicago Tribune story does an excellent job of contrasting the situation in Mosul with Baghdad:
Read the whole story, and it's clear that a big reason for this is the sage leadership of Major General David Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. The story notes the following
I don't mean to suggest that training in international relations improves one's ability to engage in post-war reconstruction. [Yeah, right--ed.]
Seriously, it seems pretty clear that Petraeus's actions should be a template for Baghdad and elsewhere.
GOODBYE, STRONG DOLLAR: Looks like
GOODBYE, STRONG DOLLAR: Looks like the Bush administration has decided on one strategy for jump-starting the economy -- kissing the strong dollar goodbye. From today's Chicago Tribune:
Then there's this from Reuters:
I have decidedly mixed feelings about this strategy. There is some logic to it. Letting the dollar slide simultaneously increases aggregate demand in the economy, as our exports are cheaper and Americans substitute away from more expensive imports). This move simultaneously helps to alleviate the Fed's fears of deflation, as a devaluation raises the price level of imports.
In terms of foreign economic policy, however, this is a dangerous game that's being played. There was nothing in the last G-7 statement to indicate that this slide in the dollar is being coordinated with our major trading partners. Without multilateral coordination, this move smacks of beggar-thy-neighbor -- and our neighbors are Canada, Japan and the European Union, none of which is a real engine for growth right now. Japan does not want the yen to appreciate too much, and let's just say I don't see the EU willing to absorb costs to get the American economy moving again.
It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the G-7 reacts to this.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
THE WHEEL TURNS BACK A
THE WHEEL TURNS BACK A LITTLE: I've been churning out some optimistic posts about the Middle East as of late, so let's get to the bad news.
First, there's the Riyadh bombing. The death toll is now estimated at 20, but it will probably rise.Josh Marshall is all over this story, and the Saudi government's inability to provide reliable information. The parallel here to China's early handling of the SARS virus is telling.
Then there's the "Baghdad in Anarchy" headline. This Washington Post story sums up the problem:
This failure of U.S. forces to engage in active peacekeeping goes back to a problem I discussed last month. It's not going to be solved anytime soon.
Monday, May 12, 2003
SOUTH ASIAN TERRORIST WEB SITES:
SOUTH ASIAN TERRORIST WEB SITES: While the media is focused on the Mideast road map for peace -- not that there's anything wrong with that!! -- attention has drifted from other flash points -- like South Asia. Alyssa Ayres writes in the Wall Street Journal that although recent trends are positive, Pakistani support for -- or benign neglect of -- terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba will remain a sticking point:
Read the whole thing.
MORE WHEELS TURNING IN THE
MORE WHEELS TURNING IN THE MIDDLE EAST: The Washington Post suggests that Syria is now discussing serious domestic and foreign policy reforms in the wake of U.S. successes in Iraq:
Sunday, May 11, 2003
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S DREAM SUNDAY:
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S DREAM SUNDAY: The Bushies' two most tenacious foils over the past two years -- France and the New York Times -- are facing a world of hurt this week.
Meanwhile the New York Times' credibility is hemorrhaging badly, as Jayson Blair's web of deceit is put on full display [Doesn't the Times deserve credit for putting the results of its investigation so prominently on Page 1?--ed. Yes, absolutely -- although one could argue that this was merely a pre-emptive strike that prevented other news outlets from breaking the magnitude of the story behind Blair's dismissal.]
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias takes this post a bit too seriously:
Friday, May 9, 2003
More on Bush's Middle East initiative
Hey, that's my line!!
These are truly depressing statistics.
That should make these folks very happy.
These statements strike me as intuitively obvious. I therefore predict European criticism that Bush was being too lenient on the Israelis.
Again, my only criticism was the failure to mention Turkey at all in the speech. Part of promoting freedom means accepting the inconveniences that come with it, and Turkey's behavior in March falls under that category. Pretending like they have no constructive role to play in this initiative is foolhardy.
NATIONALISM AND FINANCE: In light
NATIONALISM AND FINANCE: In light of the Euro hitting a four-year high against the dollar today, this CNN story should provide a cautionary warning for those who believe that nationalism plays no role in global financial markets: The key grafs:
Drezner gets results on free trade in the Middle East!!
From today's New York Times:
The only thing that worries me about this is the suggestion in the article that Turkey be excluded from such a free trade area. I'm going to assume that the administration appreciates the fact that excluding the one stable, pro-Western, established Muslim democracy from any proposed agreement would be counterproductive in the long term.
Thursday, May 8, 2003
TRAGEDY IN CHICAGO: The Onion
TRAGEDY IN CHICAGO: The Onion has the scoop.
MORE ON DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES: Last
MORE ON DISCIPLINARY BOUNDARIES: Last week I took Megan McArdle to task for asserting that the economic mode of analysis was superior to theories and methodologies that emerged from other social science and the humanities.
Now, just because I thought Megan was exaggerating things doesn't mean I think economists should stick to their disciplinary knitting and never attempt to explain other phenomenon. For example, consider this Chicago Tribune story about a University of Chicago economist venturing into the humanities:
Read the whole piece. Galenson's typology of artists -- "conceptual" and "experimental" -- and his method for appraising their artistic value -- how their work is valued in auctions -- are hardly slam-dunk assertions. But they are pretty interesting, and art historians do a disservice to themselves by pretending they don't exist or are beyond the pale.
Wednesday, May 7, 2003
THE STRAUSSIAN CONSPIRACY, CONT'D: Seymour
THE STRAUSSIAN CONSPIRACY, CONT'D: Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker essay goes even further than the New York Times in arguing that there's Straussian conspiracy that's captured American foreign policy. [Wait, wasn't this published the day after the New York Times published their Strauss story? And wasn't Hersh formerly a New York Times reporter? Surely this isn't a coincidence?--ed. Maybe conspiracies beget conspiracies. Or maybe you need a vacation]
The essay focuses on the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, which functioned as a "Team B" of intelligence ferreting out links between Iraq and Al Qaeda in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some highlights:
I'll give Hersh some credit -- unlike the Times piece, he makes an effort to actually link Strauss' ideas to current trends in foreign policy. In the end, however, this piece has the same problem as all conspiracy theories -- a lot more is implied than actually proven.
Then there's Hersh's track record over the past two years. Jack Shafer neatly eviscerates Hersh in this Slate piece:
I'll keep updating the Straussian meme's half-life as it develops.
(Full disclosure: During my brief stint at RAND in the mid-90's, I worked with and for Shulsky.)
DECOMPRESSION IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
DECOMPRESSION IN THE MIDDLE EAST: Last week, I blogged about the small but promising steps being taken by various Arab states to reject terrorism and acknowledge the importance of democratic accountability. The countries discussed included Saudi Arabia, Syria, Qatar, and the Palestinian Authority.
One country I missed was Jordan. But David Adesnik (scroll down) has a lot of links and analysis indicating that King Abdullah is now prepared to restart democratic reforms that were frozen in the 9/11 aftermath. Go check it out.
Tuesday, May 6, 2003
ARE LIBERALS LESS COSMOPOLITAN THAN
ARE LIBERALS LESS COSMOPOLITAN THAN CONSERVATIVES?: This is the question Michael Totten, a good liberal, asks. His answer is yes:
Read the whole piece for his explanation as to why this is the case. Roger L. Simon has more on this as well.
UPDATE: Kieran Healy posts a response. Be sure to read the comments, which includes a response from Michael Totten.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias weighs in, defending Totten's thesis.
MORE ON AFGHANISTAN: When we
MORE ON AFGHANISTAN: When we last left off, Donald Rumsfeld has declared the war in Afganistan to be essentially over.
Today's news from Afghanistan:
1) U.S. special forces were fired upon by rockets in Eastern Afghanistan
2) The New York Times reports that Taliban loyalists in Quetta Pakistan are increasingly active: "The Taliban presence is so strong that even many of those who have been refugees here for 20 years seem to believe that the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan."
3) The chief UN envoy says the deteriorating security situation is affecting statebuiolding in Afghanistan:
4) The first anti-American protest was held in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban . It only attracted 300 people, so take the news for what it's worth.
5) A prominent Afghan academic says that cronyism and nepotism are plaguing the Karzai government.
MORE ON NORTH KOREA: As
MORE ON NORTH KOREA: As I said over at the Volokh Conspiracy, I'm worried about North Korea. For more on the situation on the ground, Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has a nice round-up, and points out -- again -- that South Korea's reluctance to confront North Korea makes the situation an extremely dicey one.
HELLO, TECH CENTRAL STATION READERS!!:
HELLO, TECH CENTRAL STATION READERS!!: My first Tech Central Station essay is up -- it's a critique of the joint Foreign Policy/Center for Global Development effort to rate how much the U.S. and other developed countries' policies help or hurt poor countries. Go check it out.
For those interested TCS readers, this blog post has some additional information on the subject.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds managed to post a link to my TCS essay before I did.
Monday, May 5, 2003
BACK ON TUESDAY: Still guest-blogging
BACK ON TUESDAY: Still guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy. I'll be back here tomorrow.
Sunday, May 4, 2003
The conspiracy narrows
The search for a secret cabal running the government continues. First it was the neoconservatives. Then it was, more specifically, Jewish neoconservatives. Now, according to the New York Times, it's Straussian neoconservatives:
This is pretty weak stuff. In the end, you have one genuine Straussian devotee -- Wolfowitz -- in the government. The rest -- Perle, Kristol, Schmitt -- may be intellectual forces to be reckoned with, but none of them hold a position in the Bush administration (Perle resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board last month).
These myriad variations of the same conspiracy story are growing tedious. Bob Lieber does a nice job of demolishing them in a Chronicle of Higher Education essay. The key grafs:
Sigh. What Lieber says is pretty damn obvious, but it's depressing that it needs to be constantly repeated.
I miss the good old days of conspiracy-mongering, when the Trilateral Commission was supposed to be running things.
Those readers expecting me -- as a member of the very same political science department as Strauss -- to comment further on the Straussian angle will be disappointed. No, it's not because someone got to me. It's because this is all ancient history to me, and since I'm not a political theorist, I have little incentive to keep up on Strauss' legacy. Hopefully, Jacob Levy will be able to post a comment or two.
Thursday, May 1, 2003
A WORD FROM THE EDITOR:
A WORD FROM THE EDITOR: Drezner, since you started the blog nine months ago, you've passed 200,000 unique visits. You've been mentioned by such Blogosphere luminaries as Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, Joshua Micah Marshall, Virginia Postrel, and Glenn Reynolds. The blog has been quoted/mentioned in the Washington Post and MSNBC. You now write a monthly column for The New Republic Online. What are you going to do now?--ed.
I'm joining the Volokh Conspiracy!!
Temporarily, that is. I'll be guest-blogging there Friday and Monday. Go check it out.
UPDATING THE WAR ON TERROR:
UPDATING THE WAR ON TERROR: Civilization is starting to run up the score, according to the Chicago Tribune:
There was additional good news -- the planner of the USS Cole bombing was captured in Pakistan.
Here's the introduction to the State Department report. It turns out that multilateral diplomacy is useful for something (I'm not being sarcastic):
The report also provides an interesting graph demonstrating that, beginning in the late eighties, there has been a secular decrease in the number of terrorist attacks. In fact, the number of attacks has fallen by more than two-thirds from 1987.
So is the Bush administration just riding the wave? No. If you look at the graph closely, there was an unambiguous spike in attacks at the end of the 1990's. The Bush administration can and should take credit for arresting that worrisome increase.
THE RUMSFELD SEAL OF APPROVAL:
THE RUMSFELD SEAL OF APPROVAL: Donald Rumsfeld has declared that the war in Afghanistan is over:
The Secretary of Defense definitely gets chutzpah points for the declaration (though, to be fair, the Reuters version of the story includes some caveats). I blogged last week about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. If you don't believe me, consider the words of Ahmed Wali Karzai -- the President's brother and respresentative in southern Kandahar -- in this CBS report from early April:
If the end of major combat operations means that the U.S. is about to make a major push towards building some semblance of an infrastructure for Afghanistan, that's great. If it's a signal that America's work is done in that part of the world, that's disastrous.